James Harden on contract situation: “I don’t plan on leaving” the Nets

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The Brooklyn Nets put a three-year, $161 million max contract extension on the table in front of James Harden this offseason. He chose not to sign it.

Don’t take that to mean he’s bolting Brooklyn next summer.

Harden said he has no plans to leave the Nets, a statement he made after Brooklyn dropped its season opener to the Bucks Tuesday. Here is his quote, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“I don’t plan on leaving this organization and the situation that we have. So my focus, honestly, is just focus on the season and then winning the championship. The contract and all that stuff will bear itself out, but my focus is going to be locked on this season.”

“I love it here, myself and [Brooklyn owners] Joe [Tsai] and Clara [Wu Tsai] and [GM] Sean [Marks] and the front office and [alternate governor Oliver Weisberg] and [head coach] Steve [Nash]. From top to bottom the communication has been unbelievable, it’s been amazing. I feel at home. It’s nothing to worry about. For me individually I just want to focus on this year and that’s it.”

There are about 62 million reasons Harden decided to wait and sign a new contract with the Nets next offseason.

That’s when Harden can opt into his $47.4 million contract for the 2022-23 season, then sign a four-year extension off that worth an estimated $223 million. In the final year of that contract, Harden would be the first player in NBA history to make more than $60 million in salary a year.

Kevin Durant has already signed his extension to stay in Brooklyn. Harden will join him next summer, locking up the two stars of this franchise for years (and keeping the Nets as contenders as long as that duo stays healthy).

The Nets had been talking contract extension with Kyrie Irving, but with him away from the team due to his refusal to get vaccinated in the face of the New York City vaccine mandate, the Nets pulled their extension offer off the table. Not that it mattered completely; like Harden it made more sense financially for Irving to extend next off-season, but now even that is in doubt.